Tyson appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The nature of the material led to some rocky spots, but the image held up well given its limitations.
Inevitably, the archival footage looked the worst. Most of this material came from video sources, and these clips tended to be soft and muddy, with murky colors and little depth. That didn’t surprise me, as it accurately represented the problems that come from old video shots.
The modern Tyson footage looked pretty great, though. Sharpness was consistently good, as only a hint of softness ever crept into a few shots. During these elements, no issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement was absent. Only the archival material showed source flaws; the interviews conducted for the flick were clean and fresh.
Colors seemed fine. Most of the interview shots went with a high contrast, semi-blown out look, so they didn’t develop really vivid hues. Nonetheless, they appeared positive given the visual orientation. Blacks were dark and tight, and the occasional low-light shot was clear and well-developed. The ugly archival footage knocked down my grade, but I thought a “B” was appropriate.
Don’t expect a whole lot from the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Tyson. That’s fine, though, as I wouldn’t want a whole lot of auditory fireworks from a documentary of this sort. Speech dominated, so only occasional flourishes appeared. The sporadic instances of music showed good stereo imaging, and fights offered decent crowd noise. These stayed focused on the forward speakers; the track used the back channels to a mild degree but they didn’t have much to do.
Audio quality was fine. Again, speech was the most important element, and dialogue was concise and clear. When it cropped up, music appeared lively and full, while effects seemed acceptably accurate. There wasn’t much to make the soundtrack memorable, but it satisfied.
A few extras round out the set. We start with an audio commentary from director James Toback. In his running, screen-specific chat, Toback discusses Tyson’s fights and the various bits of archival footage, impressions of Tyson and conducting the interviews, editing and the flick’s structure, and a few other technical areas.
Though it becomes obvious that Toback doesn’t view Tyson in an objective light, that doesn’t mean his commentary turns into a sycophantic mess. Instead, Toback provides a fine examination of the film and its subject. He offers a consistently chatty piece that covers a lot of good ground. Granted, you won’t learn a ton about the technical elements, but Toback makes this an involving chat nonetheless.
Three featurettes follow. A Day With James Toback runs 16 minutes, 11 seconds and follows the publicity tour for Tyson and one of its premieres. Parts of this are interesting, but much of it makes Toback look like a self-aggrandizing name-dropper. The show is a letdown after the commentary.
Iron Mike: Toback Talks Tyson goes for 11 minutes, 49 seconds. We see some movie clips of Tyson and hear Toback’s thoughts about the boxer and creating the film. A few new insights appear here, but most of the material already appears in the commentary, so don’t expect much fresh material.
Lastly, we find the 13-minute James Toback on The Fabulous Picture Show. Here the director covers pretty much the same topics found in the prior programs. The featurette exists to promote the movie, so it doesn’t bring much fresh to the table. It is nice to see some clips from Black and White, the flick on which Toback first worked with Tyson, though.
The disc opens with a few ads. We get promos for Blu-ray, Sugar, and Moon. These also appear in the Previews area along with clips for Rudo Y Cursi, Whatever Works, Redbelt and Waltz With Bashir. The disc throws in the film’s trailer as well.
I’m not sure a documentary about a subject as complex as Mike Tyson could be dull, and Tyson certainly manages to sustain the viewer’s interest. However, its use of only one viewpoint limits its usefulness, and it also tends to feel more like an attempt to garner sympathy for Tyson rather than to explain/interpret him as a person. The Blu-ray provides perfectly acceptable picture and audio along with a decent selection of extras. The movie can be reasonably interesting and would be worth a rental, but it doesn’t dazzle.